Sermon; Trinity Sunday B
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Here we are on the First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday. This is the day when almost every preacher will wander off down some heretical road at one point or another. This is also the day when rectors try to assign preaching duties to the Deacon, seminarian, director of education, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, sexton, or anyone else foolish enough to accept that invitation. As it happens, people here are too smart to fall for that. So here I stand.
Rather than try to tell you how the Trinity is like water, or a clover, or a parent, or any other description that falls short, or tell you to read the Athanasian Creed on pages 864-5 of the BCP, I'm going to talk about mystery.
When we talk about mysteries, we often talk about things hidden that need to be solved. The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Agatha Christie come to mind (or maybe Scooby-Doo with those meddling kids). Maybe we think about the mysteries of the universe, or the mysteries of the atom. These are all things that are pursued or explored as we try to solve the problem presented.
But in here, in this place, we participate in the holy mysteries of our faith. The first mystery we deal with is that of the incarnation. Not only do we proclaim that the almighty, eternal God who created everything seen and unseen chose to be present on earth, but that his presence entered into a human being in such a way as to retain the fullness of divinity while not diminishing his humanity. This is the mystery of the incarnation: that Jesus is both the substance of the Godhead and the substance of Mary, his human mother.
The second mystery we deal with is the death and resurrection of Christ. During his time on earth Jesus raised four people from the dead. Those were, and are, great miracles of healing. But those four incidents were a time of resuscitation, not resurrection. That is, their breath was returned to them and they were who they were before, fully intact and fully recognizable.
The death and resurrection of Jesus was different. In his death he showed that love would not give way to the power of anger. In his death, he descended to hell and freed those trapped by the power of death. In his death he destroyed death.
In his resurrection he led the way not to an old life resumed, but to a new life. In his resurrection he was changed. The mystery of the resurrection is that we are changed into a new way of being so that we are at first unrecognizable to those who know us.
The third mystery we deal with is the Eucharist; or more specifically, Holy Communion. It is in the entirety of the Eucharist where we enter into the presence of the living God. It is in the entirety of the Eucharist where we participate with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven as we sing, “Holy, holy, holy.”
It is in the mystery of Holy Communion in which ordinary creatures of bread and wine become the extraordinary gift of Christ's Body and Blood. It is the mystery of Holy Communion that causes not a change in substance, but a substantial change to not only those ordinary elements, but to our very souls and bodies.
The fourth mystery we deal with are the words I spoke in the very beginning: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the nature of the Trinity, three-in-one and one-in-three. God the Father is eternal and uncreated. God the Son is eternal and uncreated. God the Holy Spirit is eternal and uncreated. Yet there are not three eternal and uncreated beings, but one eternal and uncreated being.
The problem some people have with the Trinity is that, except for one probably tacked-on verse, the Trinity is never explicitly mentioned in scripture. As Christians, though, we do see revelations of the Trinity.
In the beginning when God began to create, the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters, and God said. – God the Father began to create. God the Holy Spirit swept over the waters. God the Son spoke creation into being.
By the oaks of Mamre Abraham sees three men, but he identifies them as a singular Lord.
At Jesus' baptism we hear the voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus as the beloved Son, and we see the Spirit-dove descend upon that same Son.
These, and other citations which I have not named, are the mysteries of the God whom we worship and the Church in which we participate. These are the mysteries which we are not called to solve but to live into. These are the mysteries which we are not called to understand, but to which we are called to submit. For it will be in our participation and humble submission to the mysteries of God that we will gain comprehension and knowledge.
The Triune Godhead has been revealed to us over time. But just because we have grasped Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three-in-one and one-in-three, not three eternals but one eternal, doesn't mean we fully comprehend the essence of the living God. As Thomas a' Kempis said, “If the works of God were such that they could easily be comprehended by human reason, they would not rightly be called either wonderful or unspeakable.”
Today is Trinity Sunday. Let us not look to comprehend the mystery of the Triune God, but let us allow the mystery of the Triune God change us to live into his purpose.